No Small Parts: Captain Robau from Star Trek 2009 @chrishemsworth #StarTrek #FaranTahir #movie

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If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be found here: No Small Parts.

Great Shatner’s ghost! I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted about Star Trek. It’s my favorite entertainment property, yet I’ve been so focused on the superhero stuff and random Netflix movies that I haven’t watched any Star Trek recently. Ironically, it was the Iron Man quarantine watch party on June 30, that inspired this post (as well as this one and this one).

I haven’t seen a lot of Faran Tahir, but I’ve been impressed by everything in which I’ve seen him, including his role in Iron Man. That role wasn’t small, but this post is about Captain Robau from the 2009 reboot of Star Trek. George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) gets the credit for his sacrifice, and that’s fair, but it’s clear that he was following the teachings of his captain, played by Mr. Tahir. Captain Robau set the tone for the scene, and the entire movie, by remaining completely calm during the brief negotiations and immediately complying with Nero’s demands despite the danger. He didn’t do this because he was without fear – his bio signs indicated an elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, and other signs of emotional distress – but because leaders don’t have the luxury of personal considerations. If you take responsibility for other people’s lives, you need to live up to that.

Captain Robau was a strong character, and his leadership set the tone for a movie that was as much about leadership as it was about friendship.

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D&D with Celebrities @ChrisPerkinsDnD @DavidKHarbour @BrandonJRouth @karengillan @PomKlementieff @ #DnD #RPG #DnDLive2020

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Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work. Today, its a video from last weekend of several actors playing D&D with Chris Perkins behind the screen.

I still haven’t watched the whole video, but I can tell you that, while all four of them got the hang of building character concepts and role-playing (duh; they’re actors), David Harbour clearly understood how to play these kinds of games. At one point, he spontaneously helped along a confused Pom Klementieff as if he were an experienced DM.

There were some funny moments throughout. Here’s one.

I’m not a fan of watching other people play, but if you are, there were several other celebrity games that weekend, all of which are on the D&D YouTube channel.

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Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part IV @ZacharyLevi @ponysmasher @martamilans @smugorange @realamberheard @thedcuniverse #movie #Shazam #Aquaman

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I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Aquaman

Having seen all of these movies again, the intro to DC movies is beginning to annoy me. It shows all of these heroes, but we haven’t seen most of them, and we haven’t seen the reboot for others. Get moving, DC.

Why would Atlanta choke on water? On another note, it’s a good thing they didn’t name her Detroit. That’d be weird.

I’m not surprised that Atlanta could kick Jango Fett’s ass.

The second it’s clear that Arthur could speak to fish and his eyes turned yellow, the FBI would be called.

Kill those Ruskies! No, wait. They’re not the bad guys.

All my knowledge of Aquaman comes from the cheesy, 70s Super Friends cartoon. I never thought of him as bulletproof. Not that it’s a high bar, but I like this interpretation better.

Well what do you know? Aquaman kills too.

If you let the water fill up, it’ll be easier to lift the bar off of him. I thought you were a pirate.

Sharks or seahorses? Sharks or seahorses? Who the hell would pick seahorses? These sea dudes seem to be able to swim faster than their mounts anyway, so the only reason to have a mount is because it looks badass.

Now we know why Ivan Drago could punch so hard. Steroids had nothing to do with it.

I thought they made a good choice with the special effects. The director was considering bubbles coming out of their mouths as they spoke. That would have looked dumb. This is much better.

I’ve already written about the bar scene.

“We already have an Atlantean living among us, and his name is Aquaman.” That’s such a good point that I find it hard to believe anyone doesn’t already believe in Atlantis.

Technology aside, Arthur got his ass kicked in a fist fight. That was disappointing to see.

“King Orm Marius v. Half Breed.” Love that.

King Orm choked on water too. What’s up with that? Do salamanders choke when they come out of the water?

“I think I’m gonna need a bigger helmet.” Hmmmm. That sounds familiar.

“Look, Fight Club.” I doubt she gets the reference.

“. . . she’s a mystery to me . . . .” Great choice of music.

Pinocchio? That’s a hell of a coincidence.

It would have sucked if that fragile bottle had somehow been damaged.

He certainly got a bigger helmet.

During the chase of Mera, the music sounded like something out of Super Mario Bros.

Okay, so his head’s in a toilet. How long will that work? Eventually, he’s going to have to find a more permanent solution.

I’m glad Black Manta survived. I’m not sure how he survived, but I’m glad he did. He’s a good villain, but he wasn’t the primary villain of this movie. He needs a little more than one fight as Black Manta before he’s toast, probably as a member of the teased Legion of Doom. He did look like a bug, though. I hate bugs.

Orange and green isn’t a good look, but I’m glad they stuck with it. Let’s just hope that they use more subdued shades going forward.

I always love me a big, climactic battle.

I still don’t like when leaders are chosen by birthright or combat. I’m not sure a magical trident is a better method.

Well, Atlanta hasn’t aged a day. Can’t say the same for Thomas Curry.

Shazam!

This is my favorite DC movie and certainly in my top five for comic book movies. And I love comic book movies.

As I’ve written, Shazam! occupies the same space in the DCEU as Guardians of the Galaxy occupies in the MCU (especially GotG2), but not just because they place the greatest emphasize on humor within their respective cinematic universes. They both deal with a dynamic not often addressed: the foster family. That is, not a family by blood or choice, but one that’s forced upon you by the system or circumstance. Sure, there’s some choice involved, but not nearly as much. Moreover, both Billy Batson and Peter Quill have an idealized view of what family is, and neither becomes whole until they have that naive view painfully shattered. I wasn’t raised in a foster home, but in a significant way, I can relate. This is clearly why I love these particular movies.

I don’t think that was a fair test. How would this kid know that he wasn’t supposed to grab the eye? How does he know which ones are good? He’s a bit young to make that decision on the fly. In hindsight, we know that Sivana was a bad guy because the script says so, but the scene didn’t do a good job of showing that.

Those are some dumb cops.

You can’t just walk away from a kid because he gets lost. The law will find you, especially if you don’t bother to move out of the city.

I love Victor and Rosa, but I talked about that here. Rosa is played by Marta Milans, who’s in White Lines on Netflix. If you like her here, you can watch more of her there. I just started it. Also on Netflix is the AMC series, Halt and Catch Fire. That’s a great show in which Cooper Andrews (Victor) can be seen in a supporting role.

I loved Mark Strong’s villain in Green Lantern, and I love him here.

Everyone has bad stuff in their upbringings, but not everyone goes bad. This movie had me revisiting the question of where the line is drawn between “he couldn’t help it” and “stop whining and behave yourself.”

Freddy didn’t eat any of his lunch. He just threw out the entire tray. Not wasting food is an obsession with me. It’s not a good thing — makes weight loss tough — but it seems selfish.

Hitting the disabled with your car could get you arrested. Beating them up after the fact won’t make things better.

I never understood the icing up of the windows when a potential champion was summoned, but it was a cool effect. (I’m aware that there doesn’t have to be a reason.)

Shazam is settling for Billy. He really doesn’t have a choice but couldn’t properly test him even if he did. He got lucky with Billy.

I love the set up for Black Adam. We really need to see that movie.

Zachary Levi did an incredible job of portraying a kid suddenly placed in an adult’s body, starting with hitting his head on the way out of the subway car. He’s delightfully awkward.

“Stupid adult hands!”
“Superpowers? Dude, I don’t even know how to pee in this thing.”

Um, considering the first statement, it’s a good thing the second statement is true.

The failed mugging gives us our first glimpse into how flawed the characters are. They literally stole $73 from the mugging “victim.”

Shazam’s outfit is gaudy, but those shoes are ridiculous.

Bullets don’t just drop to the ground. They ricochet. Not very smart.

Again, acting like a kid. They can’t stand the taste of beer. I relate to this as well.

The major theme of the movie, care of Cooper Andrews: “It’s not home until you call it home. It’s something you choose.”

Some criticized the scene in the boardroom for being too brutal, but it had to be. The movie swung the pendulum towards comedy, but it’s still an action-oriented comic book movie. We occasionally needed to be reminded of the stakes. This scene did that for us, and as a result, none of the subsequent scenes had to be this rough.

I wish he had said, “Dude, where’s my car?”

Another example of how flawed they are: They stole hundreds from an ATM. Then after the Realtor scene, Freddy shows how selfish he is. He understands the rules of being a superhero, and he breaks them just to look cool. All of this is normal for kids, but it’s still problematic within the script (he could get his foster family killed), and good in the real world. We don’t get to see these characters grow unless they need to.

Eye of the Tiger is the perfect choice for the “lightning from my hands” scene. It takes place on the “Rocky steps.”

So Billy places the bus in danger, but we can still say does a good thing saving the passengers. After doing so, his first thought is, “Look what I did!” That’s not heroic.

A little physics lesson for you. It’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop at the bottom. Catching the bus would still cause everyone almost exactly as much harm as letting it hit the ground. I know these movies have to defy science, but this one is an easy fix.

In the first fight with Sivana, we see another example of Billy’s childishness. We know from the script that Billy’s more powerful than Sivana, yet he’s still gets his ass kicked. On average, kids by far lack the confidence of adults. That’s why he loses. Good writing and acting.

The reference to Big is awesome.

Victor and Rosa (the stepparents) do a great job of “good cop, bad cop” when taking care of Billy.

She really is a good sister. 🙂

I wish I had learned at 14 what Billy learned in his reunion with his biological mother.

Billy transforming into Captain Marvel while jumping off the building is probably the best shot in the movie.

“If a superhero can’t save his family, he’s not much of a superhero.” Yep, that’s the catch phrase, and it also shows the Billy is finally emotionally whole. Giving the scared girl the tiger doll was a nice callback to his first scene.

“Billy!” 🙂

And now we have a bunch of kids put into adult bodies. I still love Darla trying to convince the fake Santa that she’s been really good this year. But again, it’s not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop at the bottom.

Everyone’s cheering except the girl with the tiger doll. She’s still a little concerned.

“What’s a lair?”

The ending scene in the cafeteria is great. I wish Cavil could have done it.

Did I mention that I love this movie?

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Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part III @GalGadot @modernwest @HarryJLennix @BenAffleck @realamberheard @thedcuniverse #BirdsOfPrey #JusticeLeague #movie

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Birds of Prey

I had to rent this movie to stream it. Worth it.

That’s not quite the saying, but close enough.

Hyenas are cute. From a distance.

There isn’t a single major character in this movie that isn’t seriously damaged.

You couldn’t pay me enough money to eat that breakfast sandwich.

That’s a bold enough fashion statement even without being involved in a chase.

As always, physics takes a back seat to drama, but this movie doesn’t even bother to justify it with magic, or alien metal, or anything that makes it easy for me to ignore.

The back and forth through the timeline can be hard to follow, but this movie pulled it off.

“Other pocket.” 🙂

Baseball bats and knees don’t go well together. Nor do beards and lighters.

I saw this in the theater with my friend, Erik, and we were the only two in there. At the moment Harley looks into the camera, Erik and I both spontaneously laughed out loud. Sorry, Deadpool, but that’s how you break the fourth wall. Once. Voice overs are fine, but make the break count so it has an impact.

 

Go to 0:40.

Hyenas are feliforms. She should have fed Bruce cat food. 🙂

I love when popular songs are reimagined; in this case, Hit Me with Your Best Shot. And sometimes, using the original works really well too.

A fitting death for Black Mask. Not just in the sense that he deserved it, but also because it was sufficiently hideous considering the tone of the movie.

I enjoyed this movie, but only as a comedy, and I liked the directing. As an action movie, though, it was substandard, and sometimes the characters overacted. Basically, it wasn’t as good as I remembered it, which means — as always — I’m probably overthinking things. This isn’t the kind of movie where you should do that.

Justice League

Believe it or not, this isn’t a guilty pleasure. The audience score is 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you’re one of the squeaky wheels that didn’t like this movie, you’re with the critics. That’s not necessarily a bad place to be.

Based on the explosion, that bomb wouldn’t have blown up 4 city blocks.

I can think of several reasons to be pissed at being turned into a cyborg, but the ability to fly isn’t one of them. Nor is the ability to access whatever information I want.

I really didn’t think an arrow would stop Steppenwolf. Why did they? Well, I know the answer. It made for a great fight scene.

“Keep it moving!” Where to? You’re on an island and on horseback. He can go anywhere you can.

I want more Green Lantern. I hope he’s in the Snyder Cut.

“I need . . . friends.” Yet, the Flash is the only member of the Justice League that isn’t constantly brooding.

Bug spray. I hate bugs, too.

Wasn’t Superman in a suit? Where’d his shirt and shoes go? And why hasn’t anyone cleaned up the rubble from the monument yet?

CGI mustache-free lip aside, the fight scene between Superman and the Justice League was great. It established Superman as a bad ass. I especially loved that he threw everyone off, and before they could hit the ground, beat the Flash at his own game. The look on the Flash’s face when he realizes what’s going to happen is priceless.

The cop pointing a gun at Superman is a dipshit.

Again, Diane Lane is the best Martha Kent.

 

Once again, the physics of comics make no sense. If Superman were holding an apartment building like that, he’d produce a tremendous amount of pressure at a single point that would cause the building to split. I know, I know; I thought it was a cool visual and good joke too.

The only reason to keep the main villain alive at the end of a movie is so that he can be a threat in a sequel. My understanding is that Justice League 2 was supposed to start with Darkseid killing Steppenwolf because of his failure. That makes keeping Steppenwolf alive even dumber. There should have been resolution . . . and a threat of what was to come.

As an attorney that was working with REO properties (think foreclosure) at the time I saw this movie, I thought, “Why would Bruce Wayne buy the bank. Just buy Martha Kent’s house at auction (or by simple contract if it was currently REO). My friend, Erik, pointed out, “Because buying his way out of trouble is Bruce Wayne’s solution to everything. It’s just what he does.” Good point.

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All Hail (Once Again) the Greatest Individual Entrance in Cinematic History, and Other Things I Didn’t Create #MCU #Thor #HDB to me @ChrisHemsworth @samuelljackson

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For my birthday, I’m being lazy and just giving you material others have done. First, here’s a fantastic moment from a fantastic character as played by a fantastic actor.

It’s no wonder that Portals in Avengers: Endgame used a variation of this theme for the entrance of the formerly dusted into the final battle against Thanos.

And now for some more.

Image may contain: 5 people, meme and text

That’s it.

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#Thor Is the Strongest #Avenger @chrishemsworth @brielarson #MCU

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First off, Scarlet Witch is the strongest Avenger because all of these characters are defined solely by what’s in the script, and that’s what Kevin Feige says. However, art is in the eye of the beholder, so my interpretation is as valid as anyone else’s. My interpretation is that Thor has proven himself to be the strongest Avenger, and by “Avenger,” I mean “good guy we’ve seen on screen that remains alive in the MCU.”

Odin, Surtur, and Hela Are Dead … I Think

I don’t read the comics, but I know a few things, and it appears that Thor: Ragnarok recognized that Thor was finally gaining the “Thorforce.” With Odin, Surtur, and Hela dead, that would make sense. Also, with those three dead, you have a few major hurdles cleared for my claim to ring true.

Of course, Hela and Surtur could be alive, but at least one could interpret Surtur’s words as a suggestion that he would die once his destiny was fulfilled. Hela? Who knows? Damn comics! But for now, I’m assuming they’re dead, which would clear the path for the Thorforce, eventually placing Thor on Odin’s level.

Compare to Captain Marvel

This was Feige’s first claim. Powered by the Space Stone, she’s a reasonable choice, and the data we have is strongly in her favor. However, our measuring stick is Thanos, and there, Captain Marvel wasn’t as impressive. At the beginning of Endgame, she managed to control a severely injured Thanos long enough for everyone else to get in position. Sure, Rocket couldn’t do that, but <yawn>. In the final battle, she took on a full-powered Thanos one-on-one, but even though he had all six Stones, he wasn’t actively using them. They were in the gauntlet, and she was keeping his hand open, which according to Dr. Strange’s dialogue in Infinity War means that Thanos couldn’t wield any stone’s power while in the gauntlet. In that fight, we saw a brief stalemate until Thanos used the Power Stone to send Captain Marvel flying across the battlefield. Was she impressive? Yes. Did she seem as much a match for Thanos as Thor? No way.

Sure, in Thor’s first fight with Thanos, Thanos kicked his ass with the Power Stone, but that was immediately after Thor was blasted to hell by the weaponry of Thanos’s ship. In fact, in defeat Thor was impressive because he was taking the continuous force of the Power Stone to his head rather than an intermittent blast. Facing off against him later in Infinity War, Thor had no problem handling Thanos even while Thanos was using the Infinity Stones, and that’s the proper metric. Thor was depleted in Endgame because the plot needed him to be. Otherwise, the battle in Endgame would have taken 15 seconds. Thanos without the Infinity Stones v. Thor with either Stormbreaker or Mjolnir isn’t even close based on what we’ve seen, and he was wielding both. Get Thor mentally healthy, and he’s the go-to guy.

Compare to Scarlet Witch

This is Feige’s current choice, but has she proven to be as powerful as Thor? It’s clear from her fights with Proxima Midnight and Hawkeye that she’s still just a fragile human with slow human reflexes and a fragile human mind (i.e., one that would descend into madness if she tried to wield Stormbreaker). If you can get past her offense, she doesn’t have much defense, at least not against someone that can fly. Thor, on the other hand, took the brunt of a neutron star. ‘Nuff said.

But what about her offense? Arguably, she was on the verge of killing Thanos when he didn’t have the Infinity Stones. When he had 5 Stones, she was at best at a standstill, but eventually lost the tactical battle. Once Thanos had all six Stones, he was the most powerful being in the universe (so far), and Thor almost killed him. Sorry, but I’d rather have Thor watching my back. Even if you could make a compelling argument that Scarlet Witch has more raw power than Thor, sometimes what matters most is willpower. Thor wins.

Conclusion

The only character for whom I have a bias is Thor. This is because of my love of mythology, and Norse mythology in particular. I’m sure that’s obvious here, so even if you have a decent counterargument, I probably won’t buy it. That’s just how I roll. But I doubt you have a decent counterargument.

A mentally and physically healthy Thor is clearly the strongest Avenger. He also had the best individual entrance in cinematic history.

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“Fat” #Thor’s #Depression/#PTSD in Avengers #Endgame @chrishemsworth @MarvelStudios #MCU

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I’m not a psychologist, but I don’t have to be for the sake of this post, and neither do you. The only expertise we need for this post is to diagnose Thor as having depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), or both. Because he’s a make-believe character, what that really means is that we have to infer whether that’s what the writers intended when writing for the character. If you’re one of the few that don’t infer that, then this post isn’t for you. I’m operating from the assumption that Thor’s physical condition is the result of one or both of those mental/emotional conditions (perhaps another that’s more appropriate), and so I will certainly not be arguing that assumption here.

Thor’s physical condition clearly sprang from his mental illness. Was that a good thing? I believe it was, both for script purposes and for real world purposes.

Script

What started in Thor: Ragnarok came to fruition in Avengers: Infinity War: Thor is the strongest Avenger. With only one exception, Thor never took a legitimate blow from the Hulk, getting hit only when he was trying to stop the fight or when the Grandmaster cheated. He developed what was probably the Thorforce from the comics, and with both Odin and Hela dead, that makes sense. He took on the brunt of a neutron star. He almost took out Thanos while Thanos was wielding all six Infinity Stones. The Russos came up with a lame excuse (Thanos was taken by surprise), but if Thor had just gone for the head . . . .

So, if Thor is that powerful, what happens in Endgame? Most likely, the battle lasts about 15 seconds with Thor saving the world. That’s not particularly dramatic. His weakness was necessary to give Thanos a fighting chance and to give us the grand finale we all wanted.

Real World

All that said, the only reason this plot device worked is because Thor was deemed worthy. Depression and PTSD are illnesses. Having them doesn’t necessarily make you a weak person, though they do give you certain vulnerabilities. Mjolnir gives us an objective standard to tell us whether or not someone is “worthy.” Thor’s ability to summon and wield Mjolnir tells us that his condition and value as a hero aren’t connected. It tells us that our own conditions and values as human beings aren’t connected. For this reason, I not only think Fat Thor was nothing worth being offended about, but was actually very important.

Moreover, once it was explicitly established that Thor’s physical condition was tied to the depression and/or PTSD, the jokes stopped coming, or at least shifted focus. “Lebowski” wasn’t a comment about weight. Endgame wasn’t perfect, though. For some inexplicable reason, Rhodey continued to insult Thor, and it didn’t come across as playful. I’ll discuss this in depth in tomorrow’s post.

Did you think “Fat Thor” was handled well?

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Good Watch: Extraction @chrishemsworth @DavidKHarbour #GoodWatch

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Last weekend was Extraction on Netflix. It’s almost non-stop action with a couple of actors I really like: Chris Hemsworth and David Harbour. I don’t recall a single other actor I recognized.

This was a frustrating movie. The “object” of the movie isn’t worth the collateral damage done on his behalf. No one deserves to be a pawn, but there comes a time where you have to say, “Enough.” However, it’s a movie, not real life. As I’ve noted before, we accept some (let’s call it) moral exaggeration for the sake of drama. Some members of the audience will miss the message unless they’re hit over the head with it, so we can forgive characters that we’d never forgive in the real world. All of that said, the movie doesn’t take the easy way out but somehow has a happy(ish) ending with a dose of (obscure) redemption for good measure. I’m not upset I watched it, but my life isn’t any richer having done so.

Sometimes you just want to see someone get their head bit off. If that’s your current mood, this may be your movie.

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No Small Parts: Dr. Strange’s Physical Therapist #MCU #DoctorStrange #NoSmallParts @HoldbrooksMyth @MarvelStudios @DrStrange

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After participating in the Guardians of the Galaxy quarantine watch party, I published a post referencing the show business adage that there are no small parts. In doing so, I used Bereet as evidence supporting that adage. Today, I’m going to use the sympathetic physical therapist, played well by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Character Growth

Like Tony Stark, Stephen Strange (slowly) grew from a self-absorbed jackhole to someone serving others, but unlike most others in the MCU did so by changing his methods. When the arms-dealing Tony Stark’s focus shifted from himself to others, his methods didn’t change. He still accomplished his tasks through weaponry. Thor still ran into battle headfirst relying on brawn more than strategy. Nebula’s plan for saving half the universe still involved murder, and her target was a family member. The Guardians in general were still scavengers looking for a payday to finance their universe-saving efforts. They worked with what they knew.

Strange was different. Off the top of my head, he was unique among the major MCU characters in that it wasn’t just his attitude that changed, but also his methods. Strange had to open his mind to other means to accomplish his goals. Strange’s circumstances largely removed his medical skills from his playbook, but he wasn’t being told to abandon them; in fact, he used them to help Dr. Palmer operate on him. The Ancient One’s point was that he had to add new skills. Experts “can often see in part but not the whole.” While I don’t believe in magic, as a general principle, this is certainly true. The more complex our base of knowledge becomes, the harder it is to understand everything necessary to solve large problems. But this is a superhero movie, so let’s stick with the magic. Strange needed to add magic to his repertoire, and while he could have used that magic to return to his old life, his new-founded altruism forced him to focus on a new skill set in favor of the old.

Bachelor’s Degree

In the prior post, I asked, “[H]ow can you appreciate that growth if you don’t experience its full progression?” That is, to appreciate the growth, you must first clearly establish the character’s starting point, which leads us to Holdbrook-Smith’s part.

Jump to 3:13 for an excerpt of the scene in question.

The physical therapist represents an important part of Strange’s own field, yet Strange responds to him with condescension (“Bachelor’s Degree”). Granted, Strange is emotionally compromised by his injuries, but Strange exhibited this same behavior earlier when discussing being a part of the emergency room team, and when criticizing the other surgeon, Dr. Nicodemus West (who could easily have been the subject of this post). The physical therapist was there to remind us of this specific character flaw at a time when we may have forgotten it. He also helped make it clear that even someone doing his job competently and exhibiting remarkable patience in the face of Strange’s insults, isn’t protected from them.

No doubt, this is a subtle point, but as I said before, actors with quick appearances, even if they have no lines and are relegated to the background, provide necessary color to scenes. Holdbrook-Smith did that for us, whether we were paying attention or not.

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Relationships in #Thor: The Dark World @CUnderkoffler @twhiddleston @chrishemsworth #MCU

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I was recently talking about the MCU on Facebook (surprised?), and Thor: The Dark World (“TTDW”) came up. My general position was painful to admit: TTDW was a bottom tier MCU film. Thor is my favorite MCU character, but this entry was a bit weak. My general sentiment, however, was that you’ll appreciate all of these movies more if you see them as episodes in a longer story arc. This led to two points being made, one by me and one by a Facebook friend, Chad.

The Thor-Loki Dynamic

Chad stated:

I -really- like the Thor/Loki dynamic in Dark World. It’s set-up in the first movie. You can’t have their relationship in Ragnarok (especially post-Avengers) without it.

I agreed to a large extent, first because Tom Hiddleston’s acting was in my opinion the best overall throughout the MCU, but second because of Chris Hemsworth, who did a great job as Thor. The problem is that this relationship was a secondary plotline. The main storyline brought the film down to the bottom tier of the MCU. That said, Chad’s observation was an important one that was in line with my other comments of my Facebook thread. Secondary plotlines become far more important when you see these movies as episodes in a longer story that’s never (to my knowledge) been done in cinema. Iron Man 2 was my least favorite MCU film, and I’ll still gladly watch it. It’s an episode in a decade-long story that I love. A weak episode (to me), but still part of the story.

I told Chad I’d re-watch the movie and focus on that relationship to see if I could grab anything new about it. On my latest viewing, I learned . . . very little. This isn’t to say I disagree with Chad – I absolutely agree – I just remembered everything about it, so there was nothing new. Although Thor: Ragnarök fully developed Thor’s dimwittedness from mythology, he showed some signs of it in the first two Thor movies, but only with respect to Loki, who was always able to fool him. In addition, their love-hate relationship ultimately favored love, made apparent in the opening act of Infinity War. That act wouldn’t have meant a thing without the context of the prior films, and that made Infinity War a better film than it otherwise would have been.

Frigga’s Death

An even better example of this effect was the death of Frigga. When I first saw TTDW, I thought her death was unnecessary and cheap. It appeared as a means to say, “Let’s have someone die to show that the stakes are high, but not someone important enough that the stakes are actually high.” In hindsight, my perspective was dead wrong. Like all the major MCU characters, Thor went on a path of self-improvement, but he hit a major stumbling block off-camera between Infinity War and Endgame: depression and PTSD. While having never slipped unto unworthiness, Frigga was the last push he needed to get back on track, and their interaction in Endgame wouldn’t have conveyed such meaning if she hadn’t died in TTDW. This is hardly novel in the MCU (or elsewhere in cinema). I’ve discussed this before with respect to Black Widow and Hawkeye. The MCU did a surprisingly good job of immersing me in the emotions of those relationships. TTDW is a good example of how they laid the foundation for one of those key moments.

Why Is It So Bad?

Honestly, I have no idea why I place the TTDW in the bottom tier of MCU movies. It should be great. It has well-defined villains, a well-defined primary antagonist, plenty of action, plenty of humor, plenty of human drama, and perhaps even more is at stake than in Infinity War (but at least as much). I can’t explain why it’s not one of the best; it simply isn’t.

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